Friday, April 18, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Provence with Red Potatoes


 I still love my slow cooker! Especially this time of year, when life is busy and you don't want to be inside all afternoon. The days are getting warmer, the sunlight lasts longer and you want to enjoy every minute of it.

This is a recipe I threw together the other day with ingredients I had on hand. Defrosted bone-in chicken thighs, and a big five pound bag of large red potatoes.

One way I love to fix potatoes with any protein in the slow cooker, is to simply place the potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker whole. The potatoes will then sort of act like a rack to hold the protein up. it's great because the protein will actually roast and turn golden brown, especially if you have a little fat on the protein that will get crispy over the long cooking period.  The potatoes will then cook in the savory juices from the meat along with any additional ingredients you add.



This one's super easy and super versatile. Don't have Herbs de Provence? Try it with your favorite seasoning blend instead! It would be delicious with Victoria's Gourmet Tuscan Blend, Chili Cinnamon Rub, or even the Ginger Citrus blend! Victoria's Gourmet sent me a huge package of seasoning blends several years ago and I still use them nearly every day! Check out my favorite way to store the small seasoning tins!

Slow Cooker Chicken Provence with Red Potatoes
free of gluten, dairy, soy, and grains
created by Carrie Forbes of Gingerlemongirl.com
printer-friendly version

Ingredients:
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 5 medium size red potatoes (enough to fit the bottom of a 4 quart oval slow cooker)
  • 1/3 cup white wine or cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon herbs de provence seasoning blend (McCormick's Gourmet is a great brand too, look for it in the spice aisle of your grocery store)
  • freshly ground salt & pepper, to taste
  • Optional: 2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice for serving
Directions: 
  1. Place (washed & patted dry) whole red potatoes in the bottom of a 4-quart slow cooker. (You can easily double this recipe if you have a larger 6-quart slow cooker!) 
  2. Place the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes. Drizzle the white wine over the potatoes followed by the olive oil. 
  3. Sprinkle the herbs de provence and the ground salt & pepper evenly over the chicken. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours. 
  4. Serve 1 chicken thigh per person with a quartered red potato. Make sure to ladle some of the juices from the bottom of the slow cooker over the chicken and potatoes, it's delicious! To brighten the dish just before serving squeeze some fresh lemon juice or lime juice over each plate. Serve with a fresh salad on the side. 

Carrie's Kitchen Notes: 
  •  If you have any leftover chicken and potatoes, remove the chicken from the bone and cut into small pieces, dice up the potatoes and mix with the juices in the bottom of the slow cooker for a chicken & potato stew. You can add cooked green beans and carrots to make a more complete meal. 
  • I prefer bone-in chicken because it has more flavor and it will withstand long cooking times in the slow cooker without falling apart or losing texture. 
  • You can use any type of potatoes you'd like in this dish. Red potatoes worked great, but it would be delicious with yellow, white, or purple potatoes too! 
  • You can also add a few heirloom tomatoes chopped up to the slow cooker before cooking for extra flavor. 


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Store Sales + Store Coupons = Getting the Most Bang for your Buck at Food Lion



I do most of my shopping these days at Food Lion in Greenville, NC. It isn't fancy. It isn't organic (most of it anyway), but it's healthy, real, and affordable food and I'm usually able to stay within my weekly $50 food budget for the two of us. 

This budget generally ONLY includes food and sometimes things like dish soap or toothpaste. I buy MOST of our other household items in bulk for super cheap from Amazon once every few months. The last time we bought toilet paper and paper towels was in December.  I also buy all of our cat food online through Amazon, again because I can get it in bulk, get it deeply discounted or at least for a comparative price, AND it's delivered. 

One way I'm able to stay within my $50 budget is buy ONLY shopping the store sales and store brands. There are a few items that are rarely on sale (like butter, eggs, and/or organic milk), but generally at least half of what I buy is on sale. Each week I check out the online sales paper for our local store. 

  • Money-Saving Shopping Tip: GET to KNOW your favorite store's websites! They often have special coupons available (often customized JUST for you and your shopping habits), they ALWAYS have their current sales flyer available. They also often have great custimization tools to create your own shopping lists that can be emailed to you or your smart phone or just printed for your convenience. You can check out all of the store's coupon policies along with all the details of any current store promotions. I have become a HUGE fan of Food Lion's customer website, it has helped me tremendously each week to create my shopping list and stay within my budget. (And NO, they have NOT paid me to say that or review their store, I've just been shopping there for years, and I'm a loyal customer!) 

I create a shopping list just from the items in the flyer and then I create a weekly menu from those store sale items. Sometimes the menu isn't very exciting... but it's nearly ALWAYS healthy, real, unprocessed foods. 

Here is a breakdown of the items I bought this week (highlighted items were not on sale, just store-brand regular priced items): 
  • 2 boxes Honey Nut Cheerios (on sale with MVP card = 2 for $3.98)
  • 1 box Corn Chex cereal (had a .50 off coupon ON my store MVP card, that I found on the food lion website = $2.99)
  • 2 small cans of tomato sauce (.64)
  • 1 bag dried lentils (1.39)
  • 2 cans green beans, 1 can corn, 1 can sweet peas (on sale with MVP = $1.68)
  • 1 pound ground beef (on MVP sale for $3.35)
  • 2 turkey drumsticks ($3.07)
  • 2 whole chickens (on sale for .99/ lb. = $10.79)
  • 1 head cauliflower ($2.99)
  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes ($2.52)
  • 1 bunch celery (on MVP sale, $1.29)
  • 3 pounds yellow onions (on MVP sale, $1.79)
  • 1 pound asparagus (on MVP sale, $3.77)
  • 1 green pepper (.89)
  • 1 pound carrots (.79)
  • 1 package sliced mushrooms (on MVP sale, $1.69)
  • 1 package (2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese ($2.49)
  • 1/2 gallon organic milk ($3.59)
  • 2 dozen medium eggs ($2.09 per package = $4.18)
  • 1 pound butter ($2.97)
  • 1 package paper plates (on MVP sale, $1.99)
TOTAL with store coupons & store sales = $54.10

So it turns out with this trip, it was about half MVP store sale items and half store-brand lower priced items. My goal every week is to try to make sure to buy as many REAL food items as possible and very few processed items for the best prices I can find. Right now, I don't focus on organic foods. When we have the money for them, I definitely go for organic, but I think overall if you have a tight budget and can simply focus on whole foods, you're still doing pretty darn well! 


Cheryl's lentil dal, roast cauliflower, and baked sweet potatoes

We will use the food from this trip combined with the food in our pantry and freezer to make some of the following meals: 

Slow cooked roast chicken with artichokes and lemon - see recipe from my slow cooker cookbook below!

Recipe shared courtesy of Carrie S. Forbes (myself), author of "The Everything GF Slow Cooker Cookbook"


Do you have a favorite store that you shop at consistently? 
What's your favorite thing about the store? 


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Light and Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes (and a Vegan recipe too!)


Ahhhh pancakes. One of my absolute favorite foods. You know I go through these stages. It might be muffins one month, pizza the next... the past two months? It's been pancakes. I started playing around with ratios back in December or January when I was experimenting with gluten-free sourdough bread. I found the recipe over at "The Art of Gluten-Free Baking" and I was able to make a really good starter that made loaf after loaf of sourdough bread! It was wonderful! Until..... my starter died. Well it didn't die, it started to smell funky and when I tossed it and tried again (and again, and AGAIN...) I never was able to replicate that first starter. I'll try again soon... but I decided maybe it wasn't the right season for sourdough!

So how does this have anything to do with pancakes? I started thinking more about baking ratios. For the first time in months I started feeling creative in the kitchen again and I wanted to play! I know, I know... I'm a little late to the game. I've fought the use of kitchen scales for years because I don't think it's the easiest way to bake in the US. I grew up using cups & teaspoons, my grandmother cooked with cups and teaspoons and her mother before her... why change?


Consistency. Plain and simple. Most often if you follow a ratio, you get good results. And when you're gluten-free and ingredients cost 5x more than "regular" ingredients... you WANT good results. And it just so happened that Michael Ruhlman did too. I read his post on pancake ratios and I was intrigued. I knew I'd have to play around with the additional ingredients to make good gluten-free pancakes... but I bet this would work!

The basic ratio for pancakes is: 
2 parts liquid : 1 part egg : 1/2 part butter : 2 parts flour


Of course you add additional items like a leavener to help the pancakes rise, but basically this is how you create a recipe for pancakes. So.... I made gluten-free pancakes. I made LOTS of gluten-free pancakes! They were so good we had them for dinner twice, and for breakfast the past few weekends... until... (since we're budgeting our money very carefully) I was out of eggs... and butter...


Can you even MAKE good pancakes without eggs or butter?? I wasn't sure to be honest. I had tried them in the past when I was on a vegan diet and I probably tried making them a dozen times and they were each an epic failure.... except then I wasn't using ratios...

Would it still work using ratios?


You betcha! Those pancakes right above here? Yep those! Those are vegan gluten-free pancakes. The very first picture is this post is of the gluten-free vegan pancakes as well! They are THAT tall and fluffy!

Now there are a few catches... I have a sneaking suspicion these pancakes WILL work with different types of gluten-free flours, BUT I have not tried different variations (other than those I list below)... SO if you happen to be allergic to almonds or nuts and can't use almond flour, I do not know what a good substitute would be... however, if you try another flour make sure to use the correct ratio/amount of flour so that the batter will have the same consistency. Also, I did use a scale to get my measurements, but I've also included cup measurements as well. However, be aware that different flours have different weights, so if you use different flours, you need to measure them to get the same weight as the flours I used below.

Light & Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes (see vegan version below)
free of gluten and soy
adapted by Carrie of Gingerlemongirl.com
makes 9-10 pancakes
printer-friendly version

Dry Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces gluten-free flour (I use about 3/4 cup brown rice flour, 3/4 cup blanched almond flour, and 1/3 cup arrowroot starch) 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, I think they would work fine without it!
Wet Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces milk or non-dairy milk (I use about 1 cup almond milk)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter (or ghee), melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions: 
  1. Preheat griddle as directed or place a large heavy-bottomed (well-seasoned cast iron) skillet on the stove. 
  2. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir together well to create a thick batter. Allow batter to rest 5-10 minutes before using (can also be made the night before and placed in the refrigerator to make the next morning.)
  3. On the preheated griddle or greased, heated cast iron skillet drop batter 2-3 tablespoons at a time to make 2-3" pancakes. Cook each pancake for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat. When the pancake has cooked through on one side, the edges will appear dry and you will see bubbles come up through the batter and pop when the first side is done. Flip pancake and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until the underside is golden brown. Serve pancakes hot with butter and pure maple syrup or molasses. 



Light & Fluffy VEGAN Gluten-Free Pancakes
free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and animal products
adapted by Carrie of Gingerlemongirl.com
makes 9-10 pancakes
printer-friendly version

Dry Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces gluten-free flour (I use about 3/4 cup brown rice flour, 3/4 cup blanched almond flour, and 1/3 cup arrowroot starch) 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, I think they would work fine without it!
Wet Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces non-dairy milk (I use about 1 cup almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or pure pumpkin puree
  • 4 tablespoons light tasting olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions: 
  1. Preheat griddle as directed or place a large heavy-bottomed (well-seasoned cast iron) skillet on the stove. 
  2. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir together well to create a thick batter. Allow batter to rest 5-10 minutes before using (can also be made the night before and placed in the refrigerator to make the next morning.)
  3. On the preheated griddle or greased, heated cast iron skillet drop batter 2-3 tablespoons at a time to make 2-3" pancakes. Cook each pancake for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat. When the pancake has cooked through on one side, the edges will appear dry and you will see bubbles come up through the batter and pop when the first side is done. NOTE that vegan pancakes will seem a bit more fragile when flipping than non-vegan pancakes do, they will still be okay! Flip pancake and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until the underside is golden brown. Serve pancakes hot with pure maple syrup or molasses. 
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